Macron attempts to allay Paris Olympic fears
French President Emmanuel Macron has moved to quell rising concerns over the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, after reports said that organizers are in a “cold sweat” over some aspects of the sporting showpiece.
Macron met senior ministers on Monday and later welcomed International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach to the Elysee Palace, marking almost two years to the day when the Games get underway on July 26, 2024.
Concerns have been mounting over the budget for hosting the Olympics as inflation rises in France, while there are also security fears surrounding the Opening Ceremony.
In a departure from tradition, a flotilla of athletes and dignitaries is planned down the River Seine, which will be flanked by tens of thousands of spectators.
The plans are said to have given organizers a major headache, with a recent report in Le Monde saying the idea for the ceremony gave them “cold sweats.”
France’s reputation as a reliable host for sporting events has already taken a hit in the wake of the unsavory scenes involving Paris police and football fans at the Champions League final in May.
Elsewhere, it has been promised that the financial burden for the Games – which is said to have a total price tag of around €8.3 billion ($8.5 billion) and rising – will not fall on the French taxpayer.
Macron, who has personally invested in the Games’ success as part of his second term as president, admitted to L’Equipe in an interview published on Tuesday that the clock was ticking but remained upbeat.
“We are two years to the day from the start of the Games. Now it’s really a race against the clock,” Macron said.
“I reaffirmed a simple principle: there will be no Olympics tax. The Games must finance the Games,” Macron added of his meeting with officials on Monday.
The French leader vowed that the Olympics would be accessible to all, in keeping with its newly unveiled slogan of ‘Games Wide Open’.
The state “will buy 400,000 tickets which it will distribute to young people and schoolchildren, especially those under 16,” said Macron.
Speaking to the AFP earlier this month, a source close to the organizers warned that the situation is “very tense in terms of the budget.”
The company that has been set up to oversee the construction of the venues needed to host the Games and other permanent infrastructures such as bridges and motorways – the Societe de Livraison des Ouvrages Olympiques (Solideo) – has increased its budget estimate to €4 billion ($4.01 billion).
According to Bloomberg, the overall price is likely to increase further as France boosts security for the event and faces increased costs for construction and materials.
Organizers have estimated that 13 million tickets will be sold for the Olympics and Paralympics, with almost half of the tickets reserved for the public set to be sold at less than €50.